This year’s Convocation was held at the recently renovated facility at 4 West 43rd Street in Manhattan.
The first time I heard of ecumenism, I thought of an array of religious leaders in coats of many colors praying in languages for which I had no ear. In the short time that I have attended classes at the New York Extension Center, another picture is emerging. The phrase, "...the uttermost part of the earth," reverberates within me.
On October 15th, 2007, listening to Reverend Leander Hardaway, Director of Admissions, in his welcome and introductions, Dr. Kathy Winings, dean of the New York Ecumenical Center for Social Action Ministry, and Dr. Tyler O. Hendricks, President of UTS, at the 2007 UTS-NYC Convocation, I got a new sense of a cross-cultural, cross-generational, cross-ethnicity language that fit with "faith seeking understanding."
As in every school on the first (official) day, there were bright and shining faces. The persons behind the faces were experienced, smart, powerfully spiritual in their own right and they brought commitment, passion, compassion and stability to share with like-minded others. There is seriousness about the Seminary and its staff and faculty as evidenced by the first year students’ signing a Student Code identifying the scope of our service and commitment. That this is a rite and ritual not taken for granted by those in the audience.
Today, the uttermost part of the earth could be just blocks away. I hear teenagers of my own family (of man) and their language is foreign to me. Even their actions are alien to me. I cannot fathom what thoughts prompt some of the behaviors. And yet, I sense intelligence, mental quickness and acuity but underlying values to which I do not subscribe.
If I am unable to relate to these who live in the same house in which I live, how can I possibly communicate my profound experience with God to prompt transformation or resurrection in the souls of those that live across a greater divide, whether physical or cultural.
I envision myself as having been touched by God to do a specific work in a deliverance and healing and wholeness ministry where folk are unaccustomed to someone listening to their story let alone, having someone understand their need for Good News, hear and minister to them. Transformation and spiritual development do not happen to those that have been rejected, victims of exclusion and of blind eyes that see only those that are most like us as candidates for discipleship.
I hear the Seminary students articulate their doctrinal orientations and I marvel at the level of understanding of Scripture, moral concepts, spiritual precepts and catechisms. The ideas are articulated with such passion, I sense that some of my peers see the lessons as more than disciplinary instruction, but an urgent need to clarify their core beliefs. They are in the right place.
The courses that I am taking at the New York Extension Center this semester and the instruction that I am receiving are of the highest quality; the professors are knowledgeable and speak with clarity of purpose.
I see more clearly that the evidence of effectiveness in ministry is whether those to whom I minister treat each other more kindly and responsibility and accountability are handled with love and compassion.